Monday, March 12, 2012

LOOKING BACK WITH SYMPATHY: Time to Feature Men Against Patriarchy

Varsha Singh

Feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. It was in the late 18th century that for the first time Feminism took its origin in the struggle for women’s rights, more particularly with Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). 
Mary Wollstonecraft

J. S. Mill
Friedrich Engles

Male authors like J.S. Mill in The Subjection of Women (1869) and Friedrich Engels in The Origin of the Family (1884) wrote of the need to rethink the role of women and social oppression against them. 
Virginia Woolf

Olive Schreiner
In the early twentieth century, Olive Schreiner, Virginia Woolf and later Simone de Beauvoir wrote on gender questions from the perspective of and oriented towards issues like education, marriage, economics, sexuality and morals.

Simone de Beauvoir

With the 1960’s the Women’s Movement became a major political force. While the movement took various issues for the gender-debate (including science, politics, economics, culture, epistemology) literary critics influenced by the movement undertook a whole new project. This included re-reading the canon of English to expose the patriarchal ideology that informed the construction of the canon in the first place, and which made male centered writing feasible. The influences were abundant: philosophy, psychoanalysis, linguistics, Marxism and others. Feminist thinkers borrowed and adapted numerous such modes of critical thought to frame new theoretical positions, as required by their time.

Patriarchy - The Hierarchy of Oppression

There is no one or singular form of patriarchy. It manifests itself differently in different social and historical contexts.

Patriarchy is a hierarchy. A hierarchy is like a pyramid where a few at the top keep the most control, the people in the middle have medium, and the majority on the bottom have very little.

Anyone, whether he/she/co occupies a socially subordinated category or not, can gain degrees of power and privilegde by advocating patriarchal values.

There are many ways to respond to the problem of patriarchy. While few have attempted to claim equal access to the dominance, exploitation, and power of men, others have emphasised the feminine as “better” than the masculine, essentially just flipping the coin. However, neither approach reflects our core beliefs. We understand gender oppression is deeply interwined with racism, classism, colonialism, ableism, the state, the destruction of the environment, and ultimately civilization itself. As many have discovered, single-issue struggles fail to create radical change.

Men Celeberating Feminism

Jacques Marie Émile Lacan
As we know  that, few subjects are as fascinating as one’s own reflection in the eyes of a desired “Other”. Lacan, perhaps taking the concept to the extreme, observed that the other is the reason for and prime subject of all discourse. Feminism is always defined as a “woman only” arena, or in competitive terms of male versus female privilege, rather than as a cooperative effort to improve the quality of life for everyone. Indeed, a good deal of feminist scholarship has failed to take into account the relational nature of gender, preferring instead to focus on the ways in which men and women are irreconcilably opposed. This is the time to argue that the feminist movement should no longer view with suspicion those men who have proved themselves sympathetic to issues of gender equity.   
It is not men, creating the entire predicament that women endure; it is the so-called patriarchal ideology inherited in society which sets the role models  that we tend to learn and emulate. To blame all men for what has transpired in the past is irrational. As the gender roles have developed as a functional fit to historical circumstances, and both sexes have been oppressed by their gender roles; in this situation, the voices of men also needs to become a part of the gender debate. The feminist goals cannot be realised until men and women come together to eliminate the shared harm of patriarchal realities.
- Varsha Singh

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